Palestinian human rights organizations and others sued US President Joe Biden, Secretary of Defense Lloyd James Austin and Secretary of State Anthony Blinken for allegedly violating the duty to prevent genocide and complicity in genocide in relation to the ongoing Israel-Hamas war. The Center for Constitutional Rights (“CRC”) filed the case on Monday on behalf of the Defense for Children International- Palestine, Al-Haq and individual plaintiffs affected by the conflict for violations of the 1948 Genocide Convention and the Genocide Convention Implementation Act.
The complaint alleges that Biden and other officials have “been failing to uphold the country’s obligation to prevent a genocide” and “enabled the conditions for its development by providing unconditional military and diplomatic support” to Israel. The plaintiffs are asking the court to order the Biden administration to “take all measures within their power to prevent Israel’s commission of genocidal acts against the Palestinian people,” and to prevent the administration from “abiding, abetting, enabling, or facilitating Israel’s commission of genocidal acts against the Palestinian people of Gaza.” This includes ordering the administration to influence Israel to end its bombing of Gaza, lift the siege on Gaza and prevent the forcible transfer of Palestinians from Gaza.
The complaint alleges that the US has failed to “exercise its influence over Israel” to prevent the current situation on the Gaza Strip. The plaintiffs point to the US and Israel’s “historically close relationship” and asserts that the US has maintained “unparalleled…support” for Israel’s military “despite Israel’s persistent violations of international law.” The complaints cites to instances where Biden has reaffirmed the US’s “unequivocal” support to Israel since the initial attacks on October 7. This support refers to the US providing Israel with “military financial assistance, equipment, and personnel” and how “[t]he munitions killing Palestinians in the Gaza strip are overwhelmingly American-made.” The plaintiffs also criticized the Biden administration for continuing to support Israel, despite the multiple calls for a ceasefire and “staggering civilian casualties.”
The plaintiffs assert that the evidence they’ve provided shows the “acts of the Israeli government represent an unfolding genocide.” The complaint cites the “continued siege blocking of all necessities, widescale bombing, use of chemical weapons, and forced evacuation orders.” The complaint also refers to the instances of hospital bombings, “deliberate targeting” of civilian shelters and infrastructure including refugee camps, and Gaza’s communication blackouts.
The complaint was filed along with a declaration from leading legal expert on genocide William Schabas and a declaration from Holocaust scholars Drs. John Cox, Victoria Sanford and Barry Trachtenberg. Both declarations assert that Israel’s actions constitute as signs of genocide and “resemble other genocides in recent history.”
The US’s Coordinator for Strategic Communications at the National Security Council John Kirby commented on the current situation in Israel on Tuesday. Kirby stated that Biden’s primary focuses are freeing the hostages being held and “prevent[ing] further escalation” during the current conflict. Kirby also stated that the administration “do[es] not support striking a hospital from the air….Hospitals and patients must be protected.” Kirby also announced that the Treasury Department issued their third round of sanctions against Hamas and that “Hamas actions did not lessen Israel’s responsibilities to protect civilians in Gaza.” In regard to a ceasefire, Kirby stated that the administration doesn’t “support a ceasefire,” but does “support these humanitarian pauses that the Israeli military put in place.”